NDP and Liberals set new deadline for introduction of pharmacare bill

By The Canadian Press

The NDP and Liberals have agreed to a new March 1 deadline for the federal government to introduce pharmacare legislation in the House of Commons, as part of the parties’ deal to keep the minority government in power.

The Liberals had promised to pass a law by the end of the year that would set the foundations for a future pharmacare program, as part of a pact with the NDP to secure support on key votes in exchange for movement on New Democrat priorities.

But so far, the parties have not been able to come to a consensus on exactly what that framework should look like, and that has stalled negotiations.

The New Democrats rejected a draft of the bill earlier this year and insisted on a universal, single-payer program.

“We know that many people are not taking the medication they need because they can’t afford to, and this is getting worse as Canadians are struggling with the high cost of living,” NDP health critic Don Davies said in a statement.

“Given that context, continuing progress toward a universal national pharmacare program is more important than ever. We must get this right.”

Health Minister Mark Holland has repeatedly cited the need to be fiscally responsible. When asked about the status of the bill on Tuesday, Holland said it “is not an easy thing to come to terms on.”

“Pharmacare will impact so many Canadians, which is why it is important that we get this right — and this takes time,” Holland’s press secretary, Chris Aoun, said in a statement Thursday.

The House of Commons is scheduled to rise for the holidays by Friday and return on Jan. 29.

Davies said earlier this week that the parties were in almost daily talks, and that tabling a bill before the break wasn’t out of the question. The new deadline allows for those negotiations to be extended for months.

Both parties said the negotiations are still constructive.

Last month, the NDP said if the Liberals missed the end-of-year deadline set out in the initial agreement, they would be expecting more out of the deal.

“If more time is required, we expect more results for Canadians,” the NDP director of communications Alana Cahill said in a Nov. 27 statement.

The party has not said whether that threat still holds, or what more they plan to ask for now that the deadline has been moved.

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